Like an artist working on a masterpiece, Howard and Sally Stevens consider their involvement with Wright State University a continual work in progress. As their connections to the students, faculty, and staff have expanded over the years, so have their commitment and investment.
While Howard and Sally are both graduates of the University of Dayton, their relationship with Wright State began before the university even had a name. Howard taught a course in psychology back in the days when Wright State was known as the Dayton Campus of Miami University and Ohio State University.
When the couple formed their own company, Chally Group Worldwide, in 1973, they turned to Wright State for assistance. Founded through a grant from the Department of Justice, Chally was charged with the task of developing selection assessments to measure the skills and motivations of candidates for law enforcement positions.
The Civil Rights Act had just passed by that time, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had yet to be established.
“They [the Department of Justice] needed to be sure that whoever they brought on board could do the job,” Sally recalled. “Our job was to come up with some measures that would not have any adverse impact on protected groups. Different races would pass equally, and males and females would pass equally so there wasn’t discrimination put into the hiring process by what was used as a screening tool.”
Gathering data before the invention of the internet proved to be challenging. Since the project required large amounts of computer power, the Stevenses worked with Bev Tall, who at that time directed Wright State’s computer science program, to utilize university computers. The business partnership with Tall would evolve into a personal friendship. Tall even invited them to one of the first Madrigal Dinners hosted by Wright State.
Years later, Howard and Sally became friends with Mary Ellen Mazey, the current president of Bowling Green State University and former dean of Wright State’s College of Liberal Arts. The friendship increased the couple’s interest in the arts at Wright State. During that time, Howard and Sally became well acquainted with the abundance of talented students in the performing arts. “We were impressed with the theatre department, because it was just so good,” said Howard. It was only natural that those performances would set the stage for the Stevenses’ involvement with ArtsGala, an annual fundraiser for student scholarships. They have served on the host committee for the event since 2006.
The Stevenses are more than happy to play a role in providing a quality education for Wright State’s gifted young artists and preparing them for their future careers. “I am so proud of the employment rate among our grads in the performing arts—one of the most competitive industries in the country,” said Sally.
That correlation between education and job creation is particularly important to the them. “The most useful legacy you can leave is the improvement of the education of other people,” said Howard. “We are concerned about unemployment in this country,” he continued. “Our percentage of college graduates keeps decreasing. If we don’t change that, we’re going to lose our edge. Education is the key.”
“Giving people an education helps provide jobs, and that stimulates our economy and helps us to be a world leader versus a follower,” said Sally.
Through their company, they have taken their commitment to education one step further by providing internships for Ph.D. candidates in industrial/ organizational psychology. “It’s been to our mutual benefit. We’ve been able to support some of the students and they’ve been able to do some of the work that we do,” Sally explained. The Stevenses have even hired graduates from Wright State’s program. “The neat part is they have been able, at a very early time in their career, to do some pretty sophisticated work that positions them well to work with us afterwards, or work elsewhere,” said Sally. “They’re getting the kind of real-world experience during graduate school that most graduate students don’t get.”
That commitment to student success is a primary motivation behind their ongoing support of internships, scholarships, and the performing arts at Wright State. It also influences Howard’s contributions to the Wright State University Foundation, where he serves on the Board of Trustees.
But for all they have given to Wright State, Howard and Sally Stevens say they have received so much more in return. “If you get involved, you’re going to meet some interesting people,” said Howard. “You’re going to be part of the great things that get accomplished. You will gain access to things that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.”